Road Trip: Crater Lake

Day #10 of the west coast road trip found us in southern Oregon as we were working out way back to Seattle.  We spent the night at the Running Y Lodge near Klamath Falls.  The Running Y is a beautiful setting, but the hotel is run by Holiday Inn.  The place was nice, but we had our worst meal of the entire trip.  Reminded me of the Jimmy Buffett song line “warm beer and bread they said could raise the dead.  It reminds me of the menu at the Holiday Inn.”

After breakfast, we drove the 50 miles up to Crater Lake.  By the time we got up to the lake the temperature had dropped to 30 degrees and a light snow was falling.  I commented to Claire that temperatures on this trip had ranged from 30 at Crater Lake to 105 degrees near Los Angeles.  In places, the snow was still over 4 feet deep at the lake!

When we first approached the lake it was shrouded in mist, but by the time we began working our way around it, the sun started burning through the clouds.  The lake itself was formed when the volcanic mountain collapsed in on itself.  The lake is over 1900 feet deep, which makes it one of the deepest inland lakes in the world.

The views were spectacular, and it was the perfect final stop on our trip.  When all was said and done, the trip lasted 10 days and covered 2800 miles.  We are back home in Seattle now updating our bucket list and planning our next adventure!

The snow got deeper and the temperatures kept dropping as we approached the lake.


Gorgeous views of the lake as the sun burned through the mist.

The lake is an amazing deep blue.

Great final stop on this road trip.

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Road Trip: Yosemite

We drove up from Pasadena to a little town called Oakhurst California.  The town is near the south gate to Yosemite National Park.  We arrived late afternoon, and checked into a little motel, The Oakhurst Lodge.  It looks as though the front half of the motel burned down recently as all that is standing is a fenced off foundation.  The rooms were cheap and clean and summertime near Yosemite is a busy time so our options were limited.

We walked a half-mile down the road (literally) and found the South Gate Brewing Company.  I had a burger and Claire had calamari.  The place was kind of cool, though I am not a fan of restaurants where you have to go to bar and order and then they bring the food to you.  Claire says they had the best sweet potato fries of the week!

We went to bed early and rose at 5:00am.  The sun rose at 5:40am and we were out the door at 5:41.  I have always heard how crowded the national parks can be during the summer, so Claire planned this part of the trip so that we could get in early and beat the crowds.  That was the plan, and I have to say it worked out wonderfully!  We actually drove into the park a little after 6am and had the place almost to our selves for the first couple of hours.

Soon after entering the park we came upon a black bear and her cub.  Since we startled each other and were only 25 feet apart, we didn’t get particularly good pictures but it was a pretty amazing experience.

The scenery and views were more than I can adequately describe, so I will rely on some of the pictures we shot to tell the story.  Claire and I have been around the world and seen a lot, but we both agreed this was the most beautiful and wondrous place we have ever visited.

Momma black bear and her cub. I am not sure who was more startled, them or us …

Small buck on a clear mountain lake.

Beautiful woman on beautiful mountain lake.

Interesting angle on the famous El Capitan.

Maybe my favorite shot of the day…

Driving down the canyon to this small lake.

Bridal Veils water fall.

You can see the dome in the distance.

Taking a break in this quiet meadow on the valley floor.

Claire loves the waterfalls.

Shooting iPhone HDR pictures as the sun comes up over the peaks.

Good Morning!

Great shots everywhere you look …

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Road Trip: CalTech Graduation

The real purpose for this whole road trip was to be in Pasadena for Alex’s Caltech graduation.  A PhD from the California Institute of Technology is no small thing, and we really wanted to be there to celebrate with Alex and Alex.  Originally we were scheduled to be in Malaysia this weekend on a business trip, but our retirement took that off the table and we quickly put together this road trip.

The CalTech campus is beautiful and the southern California weather cooperated to make it a perfect day.  We enjoyed the ceremony with Alex’s parents, Steve and Linda.  The Alex’s friend, Nate, was also there with us.

No need to say more, except enjoy the pictures and CONGRATULATIONS ALEX!

Alex, with her friends Ying Lu and Vanessa.

Proud Mama and the pretty doctor.

Two smart and beautiful women.

The big moment.

The commencement speaker, Daniel Yergin

The faculty.

The procession down the aisle.

The proud and excited guests.

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Road Trip: Visiting NASA

Another leisurely morning on the road.  Claire took another walk around Ojai.  I caught up on some eMail and stuff.  We had breakfast at the Ojai Café  Emporium, and then headed off to LA.  Traffic was light since it was mid-morning.  We arrived at the Alex’s place in Pasadena by noon.

We settled in, and then headed over to the NASA JPL labs, where Alex works, for a tour!  The JPL (Jet Propulsion Labs) campus is pretty cool. Wild deer roam among the scientists as they move from building to building.  It was sunny, breezy, and in the mid 80’s so a lot of people where sitting outside working on their laptops or having small meetings.

After we signed in, Alex showed us around.  We saw the lab where she actually works on materials used in power sources used on various spacecraft.  We saw an area where they test the Mars Rovers in a Mars-like environment.  When we were there, they had a simulation going that tested the aluminum wheels as they rolled over sharp rocks.  They also used this space in the event the rover gets stuck on Mars so that they can figure out how to get it “un-stuck” in a test environment before sending the actual commands to Mars.

Its amazing the things that these folks are doing, and also amazing how little attention most Americans pay to it all.  The engineering that goes into sending a spacecraft to Mars, landing the rover on the surface, and then driving it around as it explores the planet is mind boggling.

Testing the wheels for the Mars Rover. The actual rover is hiding in the garage in the background.

The original Mars Rover

The ladies in front of Galileo

The disk that is on the Voyager spacecraft that tells aliens who and where we are …

One of the deer that inhabit the JPL campus

Leaving the Ojai Valley


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Road Trip: Wine Country

We had a leisurely start to the day in Pismo beach.  We slept in until almost 6:30!  Claire did a power walk.  I did a 3 mile run along the waterfront.  We continued down the coast and headed to our favorite winery, the Fess Parker Winery in Santa Barbara County.  Claire and I first discovered this place about 5 years ago when we were in Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving.  We were out touring the wine country when we fell in love with Fess Parker’s.  The reason we pulled in the first time is because I was a HUGE Fess Parker fan as a kid.  Because I was born in the sixties and not the fifties, I first got to know him as Daniel Boone, and then later learned that he was Davey Crockett before he was Daniel Boone!

The winery is rustic and elegant at the same time.  It actually has the feel we are hoping to capture in the house we are building in Michigan.  Claire was just here with her sister last November and joined the Fess Parker Wine Club.  However, it was a pain accepting deliveries because UPS would not leave it without us being home to sign for the package.  So Claire cancelled the membership.  But now that we are retired, we should be home most of the time to accept the shipment, and Claire re-joined while we were there.

We of course did a wine tasting, and bought a few bottles to take to the Alexes.  From there we drove to the small town of Los Olivos and had lunch at Sides Hardware and Shoes.  We had their famous fried brussel sprouts, pork belly tacos, and ceviche.  The sprouts were exceptional, the ceviche was extraordinary, and the tacos were just too weird.

We ended the day in Ojai where we check into the Su Nado Inn; a very cool little place that is walking distance from everything.  We had tapas at the Azu that were awesome!  Our final dish was a baked honey and Brie dish, covered in pecans that you spread over crusty bread.  Out of this world!  Good thing I got a bit of exercise today, because I am eating way too much on this trip!

Rustic elegance…

Daniel or Davey … love them both!

Re-living my childhood …

California wine country

Wine tasting on an empty stomach …

A beautiful spot

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Road Trip: Carmel to Pismo Beach

Someone’s cell phone in the next room woke me up multiple times during the night.  The walls at “grandma’s place” were so thin, it sounded like the phone was on my night stand.  So, we got a bit of a slow start in the morning.  Grandma’s place provided a free breakfast, so I had and english muffin and Claire had a bagel and cream cheese before we hit the road.  It was a bit of a “carb-fest.”

We got back on Highway 1 and continued down the coast.  As beautiful as the California coast is, Claire and I both agreed that we thought the southern Oregon coast was actually more picturesque.  Traffic was extremely light and was mostly tourists like us who stopped a lot along the way for photo ops.

One of the cool stops along the way was a sea lion rookery.  There were hundreds (maybe thousands) of the big boys stretched out on the beach.  They seemed to enjoy all the attention from the tourists like us who were madly snapping pictures.

We stopped for lunch in Cambria at a funky little place called the Indigo Moon Café.  Claire was disappointed that the sweet potato fries (her vice) were soggy and over cooked.  Other than that the lunch was wonderful, and we continued cruising until we reached Pismo Beach.  We decided to splurge and get a beach front room at The Cliffs Resort.  The room was so comfortable that we decided t stay in, order room service, and watch a movie.

Since we are ahead of schedule, our daily drives are getting shorter and shorter which means later morning starts, more stops, and earlier arrivals.  From here we are going short way to Santa Barbara to do some wine tasting and more hard core goofing off.

Big boys on the beach

Great spot to shoot a pirate movie

Driving a thousand miles of coast

Spending a lazy evening

Beautiful room with a view

These little guys are watching over the sea lions

All my funniest captions were inappropriate … Make up your own.

King of the winding roads …

Chief navigator, and Queen of the winding roads.

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Road Trip: Down the California Coast

We woke up early as always and started a fire in the little woodstove.  We had no internet or even cell service, so our morning ritual of sipping coffee and catching up on the goings on in the world was cut short.  I know we made fun of the Inn in our last post, but it was actually a very pleasant experience, and the people running the place (especially Teresa) were delightful.

Instead of “tippy tapping” on the internet, Claire made our own entry in the guest book.  She laughed one more time about some of “in depth” entries that previous guests had made.

We walked down to the beach in the early morning mist.  One of the seven cats who inhabit the Inn followed Claire like a dog.  Where she went, the cat followed.  The sand was much darker than in Oregon, which made it feel less pristine, but the rock outcroppings where spectacular.

We had breakfast with the other quests, and then were on the road again!  We stayed on the coast until we got north of San Francisco and then cut inland through Oakland to avoid the city traffic.  We then cut back to the coast and rolled into Carmel by the Sea around dinnertime.  Claire checked us into the Carmel Inn & Suites; nothing fancy but right in the middle of town and the rates were reasonable.  The room is large and decorated like your grandma’s parlor.

We had dinner last night at a well-reviewed Mediterranean place called Dametra Café.  The meal was excellent.  Claire had a steak, and I had a Greek combination plate that included lamb, a chicken kabob, hummus, and a Greek salad.

After dinner we strolled around town a bit.  This is clearly a place where the well heeled come to shop.  Just another day on the road for us …

Why yes, i will have some wine…

We met another retired couple …

Hanging with our new friends

The main house at the Inn

Breakfast at the Inn

A girl and her cat …

Walking on the beach

They said the cat’s name is “Scraper”

View of the Inn from the beach

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The Road Trip: Redwood Forest

Woke up in our beach front room to the sound of the waves and the gulls. For some reason, we have been waking up at 5 am ever since we returned from our time in Michigan a few weeks ago. The nice thing about getting up early is you get a lot done before most people have rolled out of the rack!

Claire went out and did a power walk, while I cleaned up some eMail and did a blog post. Then we strolled on the magnificent beach. The Oregon coast looks like something from a sci-fi movie or a video game. The giant rocks that jut from the sand and the water provide unique views from every angle.

A dozen sea lions were warming themselves in the morning sun, and we had to be careful not to step on the random starfish that had washed up on the beach.

From Bandon, we continued south on 101 enjoying our last views of the Oregon coastline. We stopped for lunch in Eureka, California, and then entered the redwood forest. Although we have gotten somewhat used to big trees living in Washington state these past three years, we were still stunned by the groves of magnificent redwoods! Claire has fond memories from her childhood of seeing a car drive through a hole cut in a giant, living redwood tree. Apparently there are three such trees in the world, and we had to take the turn off’s to see at least two of them. Disclaimer: unless you are driving a very small car, you would be best advised NOT to drive through. I wasn’t even temped to try and get our pickup truck through the hole.

Claire did her online research along the way, and found us a B&B on the coast to stay the night. We pulled into the Howard Creek Ranch around dinnertime. I am not really sure how to describe the “ranch.” It is a cross between a homeless encampment and a hippy commune (but in a good way.) “Quirky” is the word Claire chose to describe it.

Claire booked “the beach house” which turned out to be the sturdiest building on the site. The other buildings included an old farmhouse and a barn that had been converted to the proprietor’s residence, guest rooms, and a bit of a museum. I am guessing most everything at the ranch has been scavenged over the past 40 years, and the owners have lovingly used what they could find to construct the compound. Once we settled into the beach house, we poured ourselves some drinks and laughed ourselves silly. However, the real laughing began when Claire started to read the entries in the guest journals of the beach house. Apparently the ranch attracts an “artsy” clientele who feel the need to express themselves (sometimes with poetry) as they recorded their life stories for future generations of guests. I honestly don’t know that I have ever seen Claire laugh so much!

Anyway, the place was a great part of our adventure, and we got a good night’s sleep before hitting the road for another day.

Yea! We are retired!

Anyone need any driftwood?

The blow hole …

Sea lion beach

Stars on the water …



Drive-thru tree #1 of 3

Can’t drive thru this one!

Roosevelt Elk

The might redwood

Mighty Claire holding up the might redwood

Drive-thru tree #2 of 3 (in the world)

The “beach house”

Historic Inn or dilapidated barn … You be the judge.

Home for the night.

Historic Inn from another angle.

Precious antiques or old junk … You be the judge.

How YOU doin’?

Gorgeous coast …

Glad we had this stove because the “beach house” had no heat, and it got down right chilly in the morning.

The bed was clean and comfy though …

Guest are provided with boots in case the want to ford the stream …

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Road Trip! Day #1

Since we have lived in the Seattle area, we have only once driven out to the coast. People who visit Seattle often mistakenly believe that the Puget Sound is the ocean when in reality Seattle is over 50 miles from the coast. Over two years ago we rode the Harley out to the beach town of Westport.  The beach was a bit of a disappointment, but then again coming from Michigan most of the places were the water meets the sea are lacking in comparison.

But numerous people have told us that the coastal drive from Seattle down to Northern California is spectacular.  It just so happens that Alex’s PhD graduation ceremony is scheduled at CalTech for next weekend, so it provided the perfect opportunity to take a road trip!

Day #1 we headed south to Portland, and then cut to the southwest to pickup highway 101.  The bumper-to-bumper traffic getting out of Portland was a pain, but eventually we broke free from the crowds. We stopped at a little dive called Maxwell’s at the Coast in Lincoln City.  From there we followed the winding road along the coast.  There is literally a scenic stop every quarter mile!

We stopped often and shot pictures.  The wind was howling.  The views were spectacular.  It’s a bit of a challenge to drive 101 along the coast because the views demand our attention while the slithering road along the top of the cliff also demands you keep your eyes on the road.

By dinnertime we made it to Bandon, Oregon.  Claire found us a cool little place to stay right on the beach called Sunset Motel.  After we settled in we walked across the street to Lord Bennett’s for dinner.  The restaurant was clearly built to take advantage of the views.  Food was good, not great, but it was a fine way to end the day on the Oregon coast.  Next stop: The Redwoods of Northern California!

The view from our deck

One of our many stops along Highway 101

Mine … mine …. mine …

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Juanita, meet Lola …

More than half of our “Seattle Bucket List” is a list of restaurants we want to visit before we leave the area.  In the last two evenings we have visited two top establishments.  Wednesday night (after our Seattle bus adventure) we headed to Café Juanita, which is only 6 miles from our home in Kirkland.

Like many of the best restaurants we have ever visited, Café Juanita doesn’t have a lot of curb appeal.  We had an early reservation (5:45) so when we arrived the place was mostly empty.  The interior is clean and contemporary with white table clothes.  Sitting at the table right next to us was a woman just beginning her meal.  She told us she has been eating here every week since the place opened in 2000, and highly recommended we try the lamb.

Grilled octopus with fennel, smoked bone marrow, green sauce and chickpea puree

The wait staff was friendly and helpful.  We started with a couple of appetizers; the “local pheasant egg and white sturgeon caviar with crisp pumpernickel” was outstanding!  The “grilled octopus with fennel, smoked bone marrow, green sauce and chickpea puree” was also unique and tasty.

Oops, we dug in before we got a picture. It was SO good!

I followed our fellow diner’s suggestion and had the lamb while Claire had the “rabbit braised with ameis and chickpea gnocchi, English peas, porcini and house made pancetta.”  Every bite was an experience!

The meal was pricey even by Seattle standards, but it was such thoroughly enjoyable decadent experience, we didn’t mind treating ourselves to an expensive indulgence.  We would certainly rank this meal in the top five we have experienced during our time here in the Seattle area.

The following night, we rode our old friend, the 255, into Seattle to meet friends for dinner at Lola.


Tom Douglas is the restaurant King of Seattle with more than a dozen restaurants.  We have eaten at many, but still hadn’t gotten down to Lola, which is a contemporary Greek place. We arrived early and our friends arrived late, so we spent a little time at the bar enjoying happy hour libations.  Claire ordered her traditional mojito, while I had a martini.  Claire’s mojito was perfectly prepared, my martini was a bit weird, maybe because of the feta stuffed olive.  But, it wasn’t so weird that I didn’t drink it down.

Our friends arrived and we spent a couple of hours enjoying conversation and some very good food.  We started with the mezedakia sampler, which included smoked oysters, kopanisti, dolmades, marinated olives, and house made pickles.

For our main course Claire ordered the “whole grilled Idaho trout” and staying with my lamb theme, I had the “mushroom braised lamb shank.”  Both were excellent!

Small footprint, clean and contemporary

With our tummies full, we strolled back to the transit station, and our friend the 255 took us home.  Another successful Seattle Sixty day …

255, take us home …

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